I have posted many times on this blog about Linux, and the Ubuntu distribution in particular, and how it compares to Microsoft Windows in the small and solo law office. In this post, I want to talk briefly about an aspect of OS support that we are all familiar with: software upgrades and their (sometimes far off) release dates. We have all seen how long it took Microsoft to come out with Vista after the initial release of XP, with many blown deadlines along the way. By contrast, Canonical, the publisher of Ubuntu Linux, has come out with an upgrade every six months (in April and October) for awhile now, and in fact came out with a major long term service (LTS) release last month for both the desktop and server versions (version 8.04 or Hardy Heron). This consistency in meeting release dates is at the very least refreshing, as well as unexpected. In his blog, Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth commented that,
“Most people would assume that precise release management would depend on having total control of all the moving parts – and hence only be possible in a proprietary setting. Microsoft writes (almost) every line of code in Windows, so you would think they would be able to set, and hit, a precise target date for delivery. But in fact the reverse is true – free software distributions or OSV’s can provide much better assurances with regard to delivery dates than proprietary OSV’s, because we can focus on the critical role of component selection, integration, testing, patch management and distribution rather than the pieces which upstream projects are better able to handle – core component feature development.”
I mention this as just another example of the false impression that there is a lack of support in the Linux and Open Source Software (OSS) world. Here there is a consistent and regular release of updates and upgrades for Linux that one can count on and, more importantly, plan for. This is in addition to the feature within Ubuntu Linux (akin to Microsoft Update) that pushes interim patches and upgrades to users as they come out, in between the 6-month versions. If you are looking to implement Linux in your law office, even if only on your servers, this is one thing you should definitely bear in mind.